American Lutherie #143
Summer 2021

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On this issue’s cover we see a glorious 1902 Neapolitan mandolin by the Brothers Vinaccia & Co. after its restoration by author Alfred Woll.

Photo by Alfred Woll

Seeking the Holy Grail: Torres’ FE08

by Federico Sheppard

It is a story of mystery, dedication, and destiny. The wide-eyed young novitiate is mentored by oracles, sorcerers, and craftsmen until he finds his great quest and pursues it against all odds. To put it more plainly, but no more truthfully, it is the story of Federico Sheppard constructing a copy of FE08, the astonishingly elaborate early opus of the master luthier Antonio Torres Jurado.

On this issue’s cover we see a glorious 1902 Neapolitan mandolin by the Brothers Vinaccia & Co. after its restoration by author Alfred Woll.

Photo by Alfred Woll

On the back cover we see strips of bird’s-eye maple and elaborate marquetry being assembled by Federico Sheppard into a copy of a guitar by Antonio de Torres, the eighth guitar of his first epoch.

Photo by Federico Sheppard

The Charles Fox Guitar-Building Method, Part Five

by Mark French

In this article the fretboard is slotted, crowned and glued to the neck. The neck is then shaped. This important series continues in our next issue.

Soundboard Construction of Vinaccia Mandolins Around 1900

by Alfred Woll

The Vinaccia family was at the heart of the development of the Neapolitan mandolin, beginning in the mid-18th century and running well into the 20th. This article follows those developments with changing string technology and musical taste. The author then gives us a step-by-step demonstration of making the distinctive arched-and-canted soundboard.

Norwegian Spruce

by Leonardo Michelin-Salomon

In AL#141 Leonardo showed us how he was building Romantic-era guitars at the craft school in Norway. This time he is taking a deep dive into building with the local spruce. Although the trees are not big, the wood is very good.

Measuring Resonant Frequencies of an Acoustic Guitar

by Mark French

Here’s how to quickly make a frequency-response curve of a guitar on your bench, using a handheld digital recorder and free software. Not cheap and easy enough for you? The author goes on to tell you how to do the whole thing on a smart phone.

Vise on a Stick

by Harry Flieshman

Start with the cheap half of one of those little benchtop drill presses. Add a small piece of plywood with some holes drilled in it. Bolt on a vise. Now you have Vise on a Stick, which can clamp to any bench top and can swivel and tilt all over the place. It’s especially great for bringing a good solid vise up to eye level.

First Build: A Lumberyard Ukulele

by Steve Dickerson

The author hit on an unusual program for building his first uke. He bought a kit, but then set aside the good wood for a later build. He went to the lumberyard to buy cheap wood, then proceeded with reduced anxiety. Makes sense when you think about it. The humble uke came out fine.

Recent Research
Short Summaries of Recent Scientific Research Articles from Savart Journal

by R.M. Mottola

Mottola gives not-too-technical summaries of two articles recently published on-line by Savart Journal. In the first, Mark French et al take on the fraught task of “Comparing Subjective and Objective Data from a Pool of Classical Guitars.” In the second, Gabriele Caselli et al present an “Analysis of Violin Combination Tones and their Contribution to Tartini’s Third Tone”.

Letters and More

More about French polish and tap tones. Meeting Julian Bream. In praise of cigarbox guitar swaps. Charles Fox is awesome; and speaking of Charles, more info on his MDF jigs and on the sander pictured on the cover of AL#141.


Thoughtful evaluations of three books, a gizmo, and a video download. The books are The Diary of Agustin Barrios Mangoré: His Concert Autograph Book; Acquired of the Angels: The Lives and Works of Master Guitar Makers John D’Angelico and James L. D’Aquisto, third edition; and The Master’s Bench. The gizmo is the Logistimatics Micro 299 Mini GPS Tracker. The video is Electric Guitar Building with Mike Snider.

It Worked for Me

by Bob Gleason, Aaron Cash, Steve Kennel, and John Sevy

Quick table saw jig for narrow ripping; junk plane body as a temporary tool handle; modified Zyliss vise; magnetic cover for truss rod nut.